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Labelling of milk and milk products

Labelling of milk and milk products

Legislation about the names reserved for milk and milk products

  • EU Legislation

    Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 671–854) of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 922/72, (EEC) No 234/79, (EC) No 1037/2001 and (EC) No 1234/2007 (CMO Regulation)

    (Note the above Regulation links to the consolidated version, there have been many amendments to this Regulation but most do not effect food safety/labelling requirements in regard to milk and milk products)

  • Names Reserved for Milk and Milk products

    Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 defines "Milk" as meaning exclusively the normal mammary secretion obtained from one or more milkings without either addition thereto or extraction therefrom.

    However, the legislation permits the term "milk" to be used: 

    • for milk treated without altering its composition or for milk the fat content of which is standardised
    • in association with a word or words to designate the type, grade, origin and/or intended use of such milk or to describe the physical treatment or the modification in composition to which it has been subjected, provided that the modification is restricted to an addition and/or withdrawal of natural milk constituents.

    It defines "milk products" as meaning products derived exclusively from milk on the understanding that substances necessary for their manufacture may be added provided that those substances are not used for the purpose of replacing, in whole or in part, any milk constituent

    The animal species from which the milk originates must be stated, if it is not bovine.

    Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 reserves the following names exclusively for milk products.
    (a) the following names used at all stages of marketing:

    • whey
    • cream
    • butter
    • buttermilk
    • butteroil
    • caseins
    • anhydrous milk fat (AMF)
    • cheese
    • yogurt
    • kephir
    • koumiss
    • viili/fil
    • smetana
    • fil
    • rjaženka
    • rūgušpiens;

    (b) designations or names within the meaning of Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

    The term 'milk' and the designations used for milk products may also be used in association with a word or words to designate composite products of which no part takes or is intended to take the place of any milk constituent and of which milk or a milk product is an essential part either in terms of quantity or for characterisation of the product.

  • Drinking Milk

    Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 defines the following sales descriptions which must be used for drinking milk which is intended for delivery to the consumer without further processing:

    • whole milk: heat-treated milk which, with respect to fat content, meets one of the following requirements:
      • standardized whole milk: milk with a fat content of at least 3.50 % (m/m). However, Member States may provide for an additional category of whole milk with a fat content of 4.00 % (m/m) or above (Ireland has not made provisions for this additional category),
      • non-standardized whole milk: milk with a fat content that has not been altered since the milking stage either by the addition or removal of milk fats or by mixture with milk the natural fat content of which has been altered. However, the fat content may not be less than 3.50 % (m/m);
    • semi-skimmed milk: heat-treated milk whose fat content has been reduced to at least 1.50 % (m/m) and at most 1.80 % (m/m);
    • skimmed-milk: heat-treated milk whose fat content has been reduced to not more than 0.50 % (m/m).

    Heat-treated milk not complying with the fat requirements for the above products, i.e., whole milk/semi-skimmed milk/skimmed milk can be considered drinking milk provided that the fat content is clearly indicated with one decimal and easily readable on the packaging in the form of “… % fat”. The legislation states that this milk must not be described as whole milk, semi-skimmed milk or skimmed milk.

    The following modifications are permitted:

    (a) in order to meet the fat contents laid down for drinking milk, modification of the natural fat content by the removal or addition of cream or the addition of whole milk, semi-skimmed milk or skimmed milk;
    (b) enrichment of milk with milk proteins, mineral salts or vitamins;
    (c) reduction of the lactose content by conversion to glucose and galactose. 

    Modifications in the composition of milk referred to in points (b) and (c) are allowed only if they are indelibly indicated on the packing of the product so that it can be easily seen and read. However, such indication shall not remove the obligation as regards nutrition labelling laid down in Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to the consumer (FIC).

    Where proteins are added, the protein content of the enriched milk must be 3.8 % (m/m) or more.

    Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 requires that drinking milk must:

    • have a freezing point close to the average freezing point for raw milk recorded in the area of origin of the drinking milk collected;
    • have a mass of not less than 1 028 grams per litre for milk containing 3.5 % (m/m) of fat at a temperature of 20 °C or the equivalent weight per litre for milk having a different fat content;
    • contain a minimum of 2.9 % (m/m) of protein for milk containing 3.5 % (m/m) of fat or an equivalent concentration in the case of milk having a different fat content.
  • Use of Reserved Names in Respect of Competing Products

    Decision 2010/791/EU (OJ L 336, p55, 21/12/2010) of 20 December 2010 listing the products referred to in the second subparagraph of point III(1) of Annex XII to Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007.

    Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 has been replaced by Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013, however Decision 2010/791/EU remains in force. Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 establishes the principle that the descriptions milk and milk products may not be used for milk products other than those described in Part III of  Annex VI to Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013. As an exception, this principle is not applicable to the description of products the exact nature of which is known because of traditional use and/or when the designations are clearly used to describe a characteristic quality of the product. 

    In respect of a product other than those the milk and milk products outlined above in the section titled 'names reserved for milk and milk products', no label, commercial document, publicity material or any form of adver­tising or presentation may be used which claims, implies or suggests that the product is a dairy product.

    However, in respect of a product which contains milk or milk products, the designation 'milk' or the designations for milk products listed above may be used only to describe the basic raw materials ingredients in accordance Regu­lation (EU) No 1169/2011 (FIC).

    Decision 2010/791/EU lists the products which were notified by EU Member States which were deemed to meet the criteria for the above mentioned exception. It lists the foodstuffs which may use dairy terms even though they may not contain any dairy ingredient, e.g., salad cream, cream crackers, ice cream. 

  • Raw Milk Labelling

    Regulation (EU) No 853/2004 includes additional labelling requirements for raw milk, specifying that in addition to the requirements of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, the labelling must clearly show:

    (a) in the case of raw milk intended for direct human consumption, the words ‘raw milk’;
    (b) in the case of products made with raw milk, the manufacturing process for which does not include any heat treatment or any physical or chemical treatment, the words ‘made with raw milk’.

  • Further Information

    Food Safety Controls on Milk on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
    EU information on milk and milk products on the website of the EU Commission